Steelers' Alan Faneca: I'll Play Devil's Advocate

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Thursday, May 24, 2007
By Tom Van Wyhe
Steelers Fever Columnist


The following are actual comments made by Steelers' fans on the Steelers Fever message boards regarding the recent stir caused by a disgruntled Alan Faneca:

Alan Faneca"I have absolutely no sympathy for Faneca in this situation. Zip, zilch, nada."

"Hopefully when it comes times to playing he shuts the hell up and gives us at least one more good year of play."

"Alan has a contract. His job is to play hard, and do his best. The Steelers pay him as much as they feel he is worth."

And my personal favorite, "SHUT UP AND PLAY!!!!!!!!!!!" (That's 11 exclamation points for those of you who are counting.)

I don't know about you, but I see a trend here. The argument seems rather one-sided, does it not? It seems that those who bleed black and gold have a bone to pick with Faneca, a player who has served the team well since 1998.

For those of you who haven't paid attention to the Faneca unfolding, here's a quick recap: unhappy with his contract situation, Faneca is a no-show at voluntary workouts and he has asked to be traded. In his own words, the Steelers have not been "fair," and 2007 will be his last season as a Steeler, unless he is traded soon.

Up to speed? Good. Now, onto the argument at hand.

With every Pittsburgh fan wagging a finger at Faneca (and a choice finger, I'm sure) I find it difficult to stand by and do nothing in his defense. After all, in every situation there are two sides, two points of view. To ignore the other point of view would be unjust and far too biased.

For my opening statement, let me turn to Faneca's agent, Rick Smith:

"It's just absolutely 100 percent not right, and that probably is bothering Faneca absolutely more than anything else in this whole deal. What else could Faneca have done since he's been a Pittsburgh Steeler? This is a blue-collar kid from a blue-collar background who epitomizes absolutely everything what a Pittsburgh Steeler should be about."

I know what many of you are going to say: "That quote is from a *expletive* lying, bloodsucking, (insert critical adjective here) agent!" But this scenario is different.

I truly believe Faneca thinks he has been mistreated. And why not? With one year left on his contract, the Steelers won't offer him the extension he is looking for. Not because of salary cap troubles but instead out of stubbornness.

The team simply doesn't want to pay Faneca the contract he is looking for. And that's fine. But they cannot expect him to stand idly by and wait another season for his contract to expire.

Fans sometimes don't understand what a contract extension really means to a player. Faneca does. An extension would mean that the Steelers have him included in their plans for the future, that they do respect him and the things he has done for the franchise.

"To be treated like this, I think it sends a message," Faneca said. "To make me go out there this year, play football with no security ... in my mind it's just not right.

Obviously Faneca no longer feels that way. He wants to be traded, and he is being chastised because he took his grievances public. But he can't get away with being outspoken. Players never can. Teams, on the other hand, rarely walk away from a similar situations scathed. It is the way of the NFL's universe.

And that's wrong. Faneca has done nothing to deserve these criticisms. He's unhappy and he's making it apparent. Perhaps fans should be disappointed with him, but not to the extent they are. The fact is, fans should listen to some of Faneca's teammates -- they're supporting him, by the way.

"You take it personal if somebody doesn't want you on the team," safety (and fan favorite) Troy Polamalu said. "If somebody doesn't want you because they don't think that you're qualified, you should take it personal because it's not just business.

"If your wife cuts you out of a business deal, you take that personal because there's a relationship there. Faneca's right. He should take everything personal.

"I'm in a little bit different situation than Faneca in that he's much more accomplished. He's the best offensive lineman in the game, so he should get the best contract."

He has laid his body on the line for his teammates for the past nine seasons; no one notices who is being disloyal in this situation. I'll give you a hint: it isn't Faneca.